I really hate marking exams – it’s mind-numbingly boring. I find that one of the most frustrating aspects of this tedious task is the time I waste just hunting for the answers. Consequently, I am always looking for new types of exam questions and new exam formats that can make the answers easier to find. A while back I posted some advice on setting effective exams – which included suggestions for streamlining the marking process. I was planning to try the idea of using a summary sheet at the front of the exam where the students could put their answers, making it easy for me to find them. I’ve actually had some time now to refine that idea and test it out on a couple of exams, and here’s what I’ve come up with. I think it works pretty well.
A few weeks ago I was asked to come to a “New Faculty Forum” and give a talk on this topic. Always keen to follow my own advice, my initial reaction was to Just Say No – after all it takes time to prepare these things, and the timing of the actual session was right in the middle of my office hours for undergraduate students. However, it was a friend that asked – the friend who originally suggested that I write this blog, in fact – so it took me only a microsecond to decide to say “yes” instead.
Attending the forum was instructive for me, as there were two other speakers in addition to me (the old fart): one was a fairly new prof and the other a more mid-career level person. Their advice was very different from mine – in fact they mentioned (more than a few times) how they approached things differently than me – which just goes to show you: we never stop learning in this job – even an old prof can learn some new tricks.
Here’s the advice that I offered to the group…
With any luck, by now your exams are long since marked and your grades are all submitted. My guess is that you’ve spent the last two weeks catching your breath after the eight months of insanity that typically accompanies the fall and winter teaching terms. And no doubt as summer approaches, you’ll be hearing this question from all of your family and friends, “So, are you off for the summer now?”
Probably that question irks you as much as it does me – since summer typically means just dropping down to a 40 hour work week (and that actually feels like a rest!) Here’s a much more relevant question about your summer – one you should be asking yourself actually, “How can I use the summer months most effectively?” Continue reading
“How much research money is enough?”
“How many graduate students are enough?”
“How many evenings and weekends of work are enough?”
And the biggie…
“How many journal papers per year are enough?” Continue reading
I don’t know about you, by my least favorite job as a professor is marking exams. I’m always keen to give students as much credit as possible for their knowledge, but sometimes finding a correct answer can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Consequently, it’s wildly time consuming, not to mention discouraging and frustrating. Setting an effective exam can be a challenge, as well – it’s not too informative if the exam is so easy that everyone aces it. On the other hand, if everyone fails, you’ll be left wondering whether you’re a terrible teacher, they’re terrible students, or it’s just a terrible exam.
Over the past 23 years I’ve given my share of all types of exams – from WAY too easy to brutally difficult, and everything in between. I’ve learned to do some things well and managed to do some things terribly wrong. I’ve kept lots of notes on what worked and what didn’t, and I thought I’d come up with some pretty good methods. However, I recently attended a seminar on setting effective exams and I got some new and cool ideas from that, as well. So I guess that means I’ll be learning new things about this until I retire. Nevertheless, I think I might be able to save you some time and energy by telling you what I’ve learned so far. Continue reading
If you’re like me, you hate those annoying ‘Back to School’ ads that start appearing on TV in late July. What a way to ruin that little bit left of my summer – reminding me of the insanity that will descend on my life in early September. But the majority rules and while many professors live in dread of the return to the 60+ hour work week that the fall term inevitably brings, the rest of the world awaits it eagerly because it means that the kids will be back in school and out of their hair.
To help you avoid the blues that these inevitable ‘Back to School’ ads tend to initiate, today’s post is all about how to prepare for fall so that you don’t end up in the teaching time-pit. Continue reading
A few years ago, I called a colleague at another university to get the inside track on one of his former students who had applied to our graduate program. Our conversation went something like this…
ME: “Hi there – how are you doing?”
HE: “Good thanks, insanely busy. You?”
ME: “Yep – the same. I won’t keep you; I just wanted to ask you a quick question.”
HE: “Okay, but beware – I’m in my ‘No!’ mood today.”
I was floored… his ‘No!’ mood? I had never heard of this before but I knew exactly what he meant the minute he said it. Thankful that I hadn’t called to ask him to ‘do’ anything (other than tell me a bit about a student), I quickly concluded my business and let him go. After I hung up the phone I leaned back in my chair and stared into space, contemplating the earth shattering implications of this amazing revelation. He has a ‘No!’ mood, I thought. Absolutely brilliant, I definitely gotta get me one of those. Continue reading